10 October 2007

Welcome to the Hotel Pennsylvania



Have you ever been inside the Hotel Pennsylvania? It's the anciently grandiose building right across the street from MSG and Penn Station on 7th Avenue; it's fucking spooky, yo!



The hotel was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1919 - thus the name Hotel Pennsylvania. It was designed by the same firm who designed the original columned version of Penn Station which was razed in 1963 to make room for the Garden and the redeveloped below-ground station in use today.

The hotel has the distinction of having the New York phone number in longest continuous use. The number, Pennsylvania 6-5000, is the inspiration for the Glenn Miller song of the same name. Many big band names played in the hotel's Cafe Rouge including the Dorsey Brothers, Count Basie, The Duke and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Contrary to common practice, there is a 13th floor. Although the hotel states it is only 18 stories tall, some service elevators will reach the 21st floor.



So in early 2007, plans were announced to demolish the hotel, and replace it with an office tower. Owner Vornado Realty Trust intends to build a 2.5-million-square-foot building by 2011.
Vornado's plans take advantage of the fact that the site is the only remaining area in Midtown Manhattan that would not require special permits for development of a new office project of that size. Lehman Brothers is in talks with owner Vornado Realty Trust to lease the new office building and move its headquarters from its current location on 7th Avenue near Times Square.

Shortly after the announcement of Vornado's plans, the staff of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, a magazine which sponsors biennial hacker conventions at the hotel, began investigating possible ways to save the hotel from demolition.

A friend of mine who is a stewardess stayed their some time ago and I went up to use her bathroom and got lost on the way back. The hotel is a labyrinth of old carpets, peeling paint and just dank ghostly vibes. It reminded me of the hotel where the Ghostbusters kill Slimer and all that shit.

A lot of tourists who stay there complain that the place is falling apart and after 88 years, it sure is. The lobby, though, is impeccable; sweeping marble and polished gold chandeliers belie the desperate need for a renovation & hose down on the floors above.





I love the juxtaposition of these circa-1986 photos supplied by the hotel and the candid traveler photos on the TripAdvisor site. Those photos definitely give you a better idea of whats going on in this 88-year old ghost maze.

Check it out sometime, it's fun.




Related:
Preservationists Shun Unloved Hotel Pennsylvania {Curbed}
The Lonely Fight For The Hotel Pennsylvania {NYO}
What a Sub-$200 Hotel Room Gets You in Manhattan {Curbed}

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, I know I'm hella late on this, but I enjoyed reading your piece on the hotel. My father was one of the managers at the Pennsylvania back in the 80's when it was still the Statler and then the Penta. It was still an amazing piece of architecture back then, and much better kept. It was sold to the lovely "lets demolish our history" owners you spoke of, and "remodeled" in the late 80's/early 90's, and the majority of the money was spent on the lobby, which back then was absolutely amazing with a large spiral staircase where the chandelier is now, that led to one of the upper floors where large events were still hosted in the at the time, beautiful ballrooms.

Now it's 20 years of re applied paint and is truly worn out. I would love to see it become the landmark it once was. If for no other reason than because of it's history.

And if you think the hotel floors are flat out creepy, you'll be really amused to know that underneath the hotel, there are still abandoned Pennsylvania railroad lines and as of 1996 they still contained antique, 1930's abandoned rail cars. We still have a few friends who work in the hotel (Epsie is my favorite) and according to them, people, including staff, are not allowed in the underground levels past the electric and laundry facilities, otherwise I'd encourage you to stop by and take a look. It's something I've been trying to have a peek at for years.

Great blog, I really enjoyed it. Thanks again.

J. Sullivan

Keith Charlton said...

Stayed at the hotel last week.True the bedrooms are dumps but noticed in the history of the hotel that Glenn Miller Band played Pennsylvania 6500 [the hotels telephone number] in its ballroom, the Cafe Rouge, so went in search. After numerous "who is this bizarre person" stares from hotel staff I eventually found an old stager who remembered the ballroom but said it had been ripped out and replaced by the appalling coffee shop at the back of the lobby. Further exploration revealed a grill room behind the coffee shop decorated with trumpets and trombones and a picture of the Glenn Millar Orchestra Orchestra and a charming man who remembered that ballroom and, more importantly, its current existence.Go out of the hotel and behind the scaffolding at the side there are a series of blackout painted windows. Peer through the scratched out patches and you will be rewarded with a view of the stuccoed ceiling of the Cafe Rouge Ballroom. Hurry as it looks as if some developer is about to commit a heinous crime.

Keith Charlton said...

Stayed at the hotel last week.True the bedrooms are dumps but noticed in the history of the hotel that Glenn Miller Band played Pennsylvania 6500 [the hotels telephone number] in its ballroom, the Cafe Rouge, so went in search. After numerous "who is this bizarre person" stares from hotel staff I eventually found an old stager who remembered the ballroom but said it had been ripped out and replaced by the appalling coffee shop at the back of the lobby. Further exploration revealed a grill room behind the coffee shop decorated with trumpets and trombones and a picture of the Glenn Millar Orchestra Orchestra and a charming man who remembered that ballroom and, more importantly, its current existence.Go out of the hotel and behind the scaffolding at the side there are a series of blackout painted windows. Peer through the scratched out patches and you will be rewarded with a view of the stuccoed ceiling of the Cafe Rouge Ballroom. Hurry as it looks as if some developer is about to commit a heinous crime.